KANSAS CITY — The tortuously slow spring wheat harvest continued to plod along this week while the fall crop harvest was beginning to expand into the key Central states and central Plains.
Inclement weather that dropped up to six times the normal September rainfall continued to keep the spring wheat harvest in the northern Plains proceeding in fits and starts despite a few dry days suitable for fieldwork last week.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in its weekly Crop Progress report indicated the spring wheat harvest in six principal production states was 76% completed by Sept. 15 compared with 71% a week earlier, 96% a year ago and 93% as the recent five-year average for the date.
The spring wheat harvest was furthest along in South Dakota at 96% completed, trailing the state’s average pace by only two points. The North Dakota harvest at 73% completed lagged its average pace of 91% for the date. Harvesting was 83% completed in Minnesota (95% as the average), 69% in Montana (91%), 89% in Idaho (97%) and 87% in Washington (98%).
Of significant concern to the market were indications of quality deterioration of ripe wheat left standing in fields during a rain-soaked harvest period.
“We know there are impacts, but the depth of them is still hard to say,” said Jim Peterson, policy and marketing director with the North Dakota Wheat Commission. “Falling numbers have been a challenge, not just in the latest-harvested wheat, but early on in the eastern part of the region as well, where there were reports of lower falling numbers, and now we are getting some visible sprout in fields, too.”
Some lower-quality spring and durum wheat have been working into feed-wheat markets, where demand has been relatively strong to date. But how much that sector can take remained to be seen considering Canadian growers and competing ingredients are facing the same weather issues.
“At some locales, they (elevators) have gone to a one-price bid on wheat, whether it’s $2.50 or $3 a bu, for anything that’s non-milling, rather than employing a graduated discount scale,” Mr. Peterson said.
The initial challenge for elevators was to deliver on earlier contracts with locked-in specifications based on previous years and traditional numbers, Mr. Peterson said, and some elevators had rail cars rejected.
“As contracts are written in the future, buyers could see fewer offers at the old contract specs, and then they’ve got to decide, ‘Am I willing to give a premium to hold to my old specs, or can I lower it a bit and get more offers?’” he said.
Higher-quality supplies are being stored by producers in light of uncooperative weather and low prices, Mr. Peterson said. Over time, the basis typically will start to rise for such wheat, he said, but low-end discounts are likely to hang on longer due to the larger-than-average share of the crop that’s been affected and questions about the timing and quality of wheat remaining to be cut.
The 2019 corn harvest advanced beyond the South with at least minimal progress being logged in portions of the Central states and central Plains. The U.S.D.A. indicated the corn harvest in the 18 principal corn-producing states was 4% completed by Sept. 15 compared with 8% a year ago and 7% as the recent five-year average for the date. Corn in the major states was 18% mature compared with 51% a year ago and 39% as the five-year average. Delayed maturing because of late planting was expected to slow harvest progress compared with the average pace as combining moves northward.
Kansas corn was 10% harvested by Sept. 15 versus 16% as the average for the date. No combining was indicated farther north than Kansas in the Plains states. The Texas harvest was 59% completed against 61% as the five-year average.
In the Central states, the Missouri corn harvest was 8% completed by Sept. 15 compared with 23% a year earlier and 19% as the average for the date. The Illinois and Indiana harvests were just underway with 1% of the crop harvested in each state compared with 6% and 4%, respectively, as the recent five-year averages. The Pennsylvania crop was 6% harvested compared with 4% as the average.
The Tennessee harvest was 38% completed by Sept. 15, and the North Carolina crop was 72% harvested, with the pace in both states ahead of the average at 35% and 63%, respectively.
The corn harvest in the Delta states and the deep South was progressing at or even ahead of the average pace in certain states. This Louisiana harvest was 99% completed, Arkansas at 63% (74% as the five-year average for the date), 89% in Mississippi (85%), 77% in Alabama (67%), 93% in Georgia (93%), 92% in South Carolina (88%) and 28% in Kentucky (28%).
The soybean harvest was progressing in the South and was just underway in Tennessee and Kentucky. The Louisiana soybean harvest was 38% completed by Sept. 15 compared with 51% as the average five-year progress for the date. Harvesting was 8% completed in Arkansas (16% as the average for the date), 15% in Mississippi (33%), 5% in Kentucky (4%) and 9% in Tennessee (3%).
As in the case of corn, the soybean harvest was expected to proceed slowly as it moves northward because of late planting.